Quesnel Lake

Quesnel Lake

Mine disaster upsets Okanagan Indian Band

An environmental emergency has the Okanagan Indian Band demanding action

An environmental emergency has the Okanagan Indian Band demanding action.

The Mount Polley mine tailings pond in the Cariboo breached Monday, sending 10-billion litres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of sand containing metals into the environment.

“Mercury, lead and arsenic are just three of the substances found within the pond,” said Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band chief.

“The environmental impact on the river systems and surrounding land will not be truly felt for some time.”

The Okanagan Indian Band is calling on the federal and provincial governments to create, apply and enforce laws that will protect waterways which affect the lives of not only aboriginal peoples but the community as a whole.

The OKIB also wants the governments to ensure resources are available to assess and mitigate the damage caused by the Mount Polley Mine incident.

“This is not just about aboriginal interests,” said Louis.

“It is in the best interests of all British Columbians and Canadians to live in a society where we can go fishing or hunting and not have to worry about arsenic and mercury in our food or drinking water.  A tailings pond that eventually flows into the Fraser River, a system that supports the largest fishery in the Pacific Northwest, is not prudent resource management.

“It is a direct threat to an aquatic ecosystem and to all those that depend on its bounty for their health, wealth and well-being. It is a direct threat to future generations.”